Continuing work with the Steps has given this AA increased periods of serenity
I DRANK FOR fifteen years, and for the last two of those years, there was no question about whether or not I would drink. I had to. The choice was gone, and no matter what I said at the beginning of the day, sometime that day I would drink.
Today, the AA program and the grace of God have restored my choice. There’s no possibility of my staying sober on my own will or strength. I can’t do it alone. I have stayed sober with the help I find in the AA Fellowship.
During my first year of sobriety, I attended six or seven meetings a week and took two Fourth Steps and two Fifth Steps. I found my sponsor while I was still in a rehabilitation hospital, and he kept me busy with Twelfth Step work.
I began going to Step meetings in my second year of sobriety. During that year, I wrote several Fourth Steps and shared them with a number of other AA members. They usually shared their Fifth Steps with me at the same time.
I got into making direct amends, as Step Nine tells us to do. After making these amends, I experienced a marked improvement in my ability to meditate. Something changed after I had tried to thoroughly work Steps One through Nine. I was able to sit quietly and turn my thoughts to God, and I began to meditate for about fifteen minutes in the morning–noise and family conditions permitting! I would begin by saying the Third Step prayer found in the Big Book on page 63, the Seventh Step prayer described on page 76, the Serenity Prayer, and the Eleventh Step prayer. I then repeated a phrase such as “Thy will be done,” or perhaps the word “love.” I would keep bringing my mind back to this, and if the period was going well, might continue longer than fifteen minutes.
This kind of continuing work with the Steps, including regular meditation, has given me increased periods of serenity, more emotional balance, and greater acceptance of myself. My tendency toward depression and fear has lessened, and my life is more stable. It’s as if God’s will is a river, and by working the Steps, I find myself going naturally with the current rather than trying to swim upstream or cross-stream.
During my sober life in AA, I’ve occasionally wondered about drinking. Last spring, I was in Houston on business, and I ordered a ginger ale at dinner. By mistake, I was served a highball, and I drank a mouthful before realizing what it was. I set the glass down, but the terror that had accompanied my last drunk came back. It had been two years since I’d had a drink, but there in that Houston restaurant, the fright washed over me once more.
During my last drunk, twenty-four months before, my mind was shattered with numbing terror and I was physically unable to get out of bed for a full day and a half, except to crawl to the bathroom. I was sleeping in a back bedroom by myself. My wife and children were living a separate life, as if I didn’t exist.
During that last drunk, I became acutely conscious of my powerlessness over alcohol. Sick, alone, frightened, I heard a voice say over and over, “You can’t stop drinking. You’re hopeless. You’re weak and you’re hopeless and you can’t stop drinking.”
Well, I did stop, with the wonderful help of our program. But then, two years later, those same fears overwhelmed me when I took a drink by accident in that Houston restaurant. I didn’t drink any more that evening, and I haven’t since, thank God.
However, the experience was valuable, because it renewed my awareness of precisely what the stakes are in Alcoholics Anonymous: life or death. It reminded me of the words on page 85 in the Big Book: “We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our sp